DOWN TO BUSINESS

Louth rivalry "should be confined to the sports field"

Green Party councillor Mark Dearey was among the guests as Newstalk FM came to Dundalk

Barry Landy

Reporter:

Barry Landy

Email:

barry.landy@dundalkdemocrat.ie

Louth rivalry "should be confined to the sports field"

Dundalk Democrat editor David Lynch reviews the papers with Bobby Kerr.

Newstalk FM's Down to Business programme visited Dundalk on Saturday morning (April 14th) where a host of local representatives, stakeholders and sporting figures took to the microphone to discuss Dundalk in 2018 - it's economy, it's people and it's prospects in the future. 

Among host Bobby Kerr's guests on the show - which was broadcast live across Ireland on 106-108fm and around the world online - were Dundalk FC boss Stephen Kenny, Dundalk Democrat editor David Lynch, Paddy Matthews of Matthews Coaches, Neil Watters from Classified Records, Paddy Malone from Dundalk Chamber of Commerce and Spirit Store owner Mark Dearey.

Speaking to Kerr, who helmed the latest edition of the 'Winning Back the High Street' roadshow, Mark Deary, also a local Green Party councillor spoke about how he feels Louth must go forward as one. He wants Dundalk and Drogheda - Ireland's two biggest towns - to work together. 

"I now consider the two towns to be sister towns," he said. "We're joined by the hip, due to the National Planning Framework. The rivalry between the two towns should be enjoyable and confined to the sports field.

"It's not helpful and we're not working together. We're now being forced to work together through the NPF and together, Dundalk and Drogheda need to find common cause and work much more closely together. 

The Project 2040 plan outlined earlier this year recognised both Dundalk and Drogheda a in the context of the Dublin to Belfast economic corridor, describing them as "important cross-border networks for regional development”.

'It will be necessary to prepare coordinated strategies for Dundalk and Drogheda at both regional and town level to ensure that they have the capacity to grow sustainably and secure investment as key centres on the Drogheda-Dundalk-Newry cross border network,' the plan read.

Dearey wants joined up thinking going forward. The Dundalk Municipal District representative also spoke about how the town's retailers are fighting against all the obstacles that have come up against in recent years. 

His family were former owners of the Dearey's drapers in the town centre and while he admits the area has suffered, a turn around is happening. 

"There is no question the north end of the town has not recovered," Dearey said, in relation to closure of established businesses. "We were led by a planning model that really didn't serve the town well.

"We're only now starting to find our feet. The BIDS company is really finding it's range now, Martin McElliott is doing a fine job. I believe they have got a really good level of trust with traders. 

"Retailers are finding their voice, finding opportunities. I think we have a great chance of winning back the main street," he added, whilst also outlining his belief the docks in Dundalk could prove an area of growth in years to come. 

"The docks are the part of the town that are waiting to be the opportunity of the future," Dearey continued. "You look at what's happening at other docklands, investment opportunities are being created. Money is flowing in. We are a distance from that in Dundalk. You'd like to think it would become a sub-set of the town. 

"Dublin Port Company need to make a decision on it's future, probably in tandem with the council."

PRO of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce Paddy Malone told the programme that 3000 people are travelling back and forth from north of the border to Dundalk every day.

"That's people coming into work and people coming into DKIT and other reasons. There are around 20,000 all along the border. The border is critical," he said. 

"We're pushing the whole idea of a living city initiative. We started this in the Chamber 20 years ago when the original schemes for the capital allowances and the tax breaks were running out. We argued that the Belfast agreement was only signed in 2003. It didn't give Dundalk the chance because it closed in 2006.

"Dundalk at 40,000 people is in chronic need of that support," Malone added. 

"We're trying to get across the message that Dundalk is open for business. We have faster broadband here than in the IFSC."

Among the other guests on the Down To Business programme, recorded at the Imperial Hotel on Park Street were Jimmy Quinn of Quinn Transport, Paul Johnson (STATSports), Des Goldrick (Carlingford Brewing Company) and Father Damo actor Joe Rooney. Local band Elephants closed the show. 

This Tuesday, April 17th, the Dundalk Democrat hits newsstands across Louth with a brand new look - refreshed and redesigned as a newspaper for a modern Dundalk. Keep an eye out for the brand new Dundalk Democrat - Dundalk and Proud 24/7.